Thursday, October 8, 2009


I just wanted to say a couple things about the closing of Gourmet Magazine.

First, what is most sad is that people who love their work and depend on their paycheck, no longer have either. That is the real tragedy here.

Second, Ruth Reichl seems like a very cool lady - talented, passionate, tough, a smart cookie and the very opposite of a food snob. I'm pretty sure she will land on her feet.

Third, I was going to let my subscription to Gourmet run out. True.

I have cooked many recipes from Gourmet, posted some of them here and most have been lovely successes, but I felt that Bon Appetite, with its adventurous, tasty but manageable recipes and short, creative, but scan-able articles with the cool layout just met my needs more.

I agree with my neighbor Kian at Redcook that Gourmet's beautiful photography and long rambling travel pieces were luxurious, gorgeous and lush. They were relevant, for sure. Maybe the best in the business. But frankly, these days, I barely have time to scan an article or read a page at night before my head slams into the pillow, much less lay on my sofa with my feet up and delve into the riches of a food excursion to Bankok, complete with recipes that take so long to prep and make that I would have to hire a babysitter and program 20 hours of Wonder Pets onto my DVR just to make it happen.

Bon Appetite is just a better solution for people who are excited by food and cooking and eating, but don't have all weekend to hold up in their kitchens making 32 different flavors of jam. I love jam, mind you, I love making jam, but the family will throw spatulas at me if I disappear into the kitchen making something they can't eat for lunch.

If Conde Nast had to let one go, better it be the old icon, instead of the re-vamped upstart. They are merely responding to ad sales, subscription numbers, a changing media business, a morphing food culture, and demand. You can't really blame the boys in Conde Nast accounting for not being sentimental.

Fourth, make no mistake - the death of Gourmet is not an indication that food culture is being dumbed down by people who throw their "cooking made easy" dishes on the table on nights when they aren't microwaving the Gorton's Fish Sticks or pulling a "Kids Cuisine" TV dinner out of the freezer. Those people aren't reading Bon Appetite or Gourmet anyway.

But this might be a sign that not everyone who loves to cook, eat and enjoy food has to prove their kitchen prowess by languishing in the kitchen for hours at a time while their husbands bang the secretary and the kids zone out to Xbox. Unless you are Thomas Keller or a professional chef, food isn't the end. It's the means. At least for most of us with families.

My cooking is partly about fulfilling myself, being creative, expanding my culinary experience and cooking techniques, making more and more from scratch, and occasionally getting some feedback that makes my head swell, but it's mostly about feeding people. And feeding people isn't the thing of long, gorgeous, spiraling articles and otherworldly photography.

It's real, immediate, no nonsense, unfussy and right now.

It means I need almost constant inspiration with very little time to cultivate it. When I need information and inspiration, it must come quickly, succinctly and pack a wallop.

It means making the most of my time in the kitchen so I can cook amazing, tasty, healthy, do-able food, constantly introduce new ingredients, herbs, seasoning, tastes and textures, make many processed food items like broth and sauces from scratch, make a bunch of people with disparate preferences happy and still have the energy to clean up, wipe the flour off my face and have two minutes with my husband and kids (or maybe even to myself) before I have to herd everyone to the bathroom and throw everyone in bed. And do this, sometimes more than three times a day.

See? No time for long rambling magazine trips to street markets in Thailand.

So, there is a part of me that is sad that Gourmet has hit the skids. Sad, mostly for the people who worked there and are now trying to figure it all out for themselves. But mostly, I feel like Gourmet is just another cautionary tale for media that doesn't have sense enough to know when change is upon them.



SaintTigerlily said...

Amen sister. I am with you 100%.

ntsc said...

I don't think I have more than 10 kinds of jam anyway. However we did add lamb stock to the standard stock list this weekend past.

We subscribed to both, althought the BA subscription goes back further (March 1980 I think). We will miss it.

Cheryl Arkison said...

Not that you say anything wrong in this post, but are so many people who are complaining about teh snobbery of Gourmet actually reading it lately? I've made more recipes from the Gourmet Every Day section than any other during my 15 year subscription, and its a relatively new feature. And gasp, they do sometimes use things like canned stock.

This may inherently be one of the problems that the magazine faced - the perceptions wasn't the whole reality.

Kristen In London said...

I'm new to your blog, a friend having recommended it because I was distressed at the demise of Gourmet. I get your comments, certainly, about the luxury needed to sit down with a "real" magazine. I confess I stick my magazines in my handbag for the ten-minute tube ride here in London, or the five minutes when I arrive at school pickup early. But for that, I adored it, but probably prefer Saveur for its simpler stories, not always recipes... just narratives.

Anyway, I'm enjoying your blog, so thank you!

Erica said...

I was actually quite sad to hear about the demise of Gourmet. I have a notebook full of recipes that I've pulled from that magazine.

Of course, I haven't read it since we've been living in France, but had been hoping to subscribe to it again when we got back to the states. I guess I'll have to take another look at Bon Appetit.